* World reformed group says must save by moving from Geneva
* Most donations, fees made in euros and dollars
By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor
PARIS, Nov 5 The Swiss city of Geneva has a long
history of affording refuge to religious dissenters, most
notably the 16th-century reformer John Calvin, but the strong
Swiss franc currency has made it hard on his followers.
The exchange rate of the Swiss franc to other currencies has
forced the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) to move
its global headquarters, which has a staff of seven, to Germany
from the city known as "the Protestant Rome" when Calvin ruled
it as a strict theocracy.
A WCRC statement on Monday said the group, which represents
about 80 million Christians in Reformed, Presbyterian and other
churches around the world, would move its office to Hanover by
"Most WCRC membership fees and donations are made in euros
or American dollars that have dropped in value in the past
several years against the strong Swiss franc," it said.
The move would bring savings of about 200,000 Swiss
francs($212,000) a year, it added. Over the past five years, the
dollar has lost around 21 percent of its value against the Swiss
currency and the euro has lost about 27 percent.
Born in northern France, Calvin was the virtual ruler of
Geneva from 1541 until his death in 1564. A tireless preacher,
he enforced a strict public morality that prohibited public
amusements. Heretics were tortured and some burned at the stake.
The city became a centre of the Reformation and welcomed
Protestants who fled from Catholic rulers around Europe. After
his death, his ideas spread to France, Germany, England and
Scotland, and later with the Puritans to the American colonies.
Geneva commemorated him in 1909 with its Reformation Wall at
the university he founded. The city also hosts an International
Museum of the Reformation next to its cathedral.
The Reformed church movement has had offices in Geneva since
1948, when the World Council of Churches representing 349
Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican churches opened there.
Visiting a synod of Germany's main Protestant church
association on Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel said the WCRC
decision "highlights the positive church-state relations in our
country, which is noticed and recognised internationally".
With about 2.2 billion adherents, Christianity is the
world's largest faith. The Roman Catholic Church accounts for
1.2 billion of that total, followed by the Orthodox with over
250 million members and Baptists with around 90 million.
The Reformed, Anglican, Lutheran and Methodist churches each
have about 80 million members around the world, many of them in
(Reporting By Tom Heneghan; Editing by Michael Roddy)